13 responses to “Verbascum nigrum”

  1. Bruce Boone

    Are there scientific descriptors that you can draw on to describe floral scents? Looking at the still rather feral appearing black mullein in the photo I imagine somehow that it has got to have a sour scent. I am just guessing though. Perhaps there are no normative tools in place for desribing the perfume of flowers. Still I can’t help it, I always year to know how flowers and plants SMELL. But perhaps there is no help for this. If so however, I shall have to go on endlessly yearning, yearning I suppose. Perhaps here science must give way to creative acts of poetic imagination. I will at least always try to imagine these exotic smells for myself

    1. Pat Collins

      Visit botanical gardens and plant nurseries and open garden days and every other opportunity you can find to meet the plants in person. Perfumes can be chemically analysed but your personal experience is the only way to know how they will smell for you. It seems that I can’t smell β-ionone but can smell α-ionone so orris root smells very different to me than to most people.

      I bought a Jasminum azoricum by mail order last week just to see what it smells like and it is the most exquisite jasmine I have smelt. I will be growing that on and taking cuttings regularly. It should be happy as a houseplant here in the UK.

      I have a selection of 70 different bottles of essential oils that I mostly got just to know how they smell.

    2. Denis

      I could imagine using something alone the lines of what are used for wines and certain liquors, Of course, with any system like that you have to have referents. The trick would be using ones that have a certain level of familiarity across countries and cultures.

  2. Pati Hill

    Knowing how plants smell can help fix them in memory for many of us, so I am sympathetic to Bruce Boone’s query.
    Perhaps a bit of research into aromatherapy may help. It is possible that helpful descriptors are assigned to individual essential oils that are distilled from single source plant material. Scientific descriptors are likely another matter.

  3. Wendy

    Bruce, read Lucas Turin on sensing scent. I personally believe from experience and flower catalogues that few nurserymen can smell…

  4. Wendy

    By the way, such cheerful colors for the beginning of autumn Daniel. As always, a big grateful thanks!

  5. Bonnie

    Certainly a lot of seeds for a season!

    Per Wendy’s comment, I don’t think most men have a clear sense of smell. Unless it is coffee perking. LOL

  6. Alison

    Many perfume designers are male, so it’s certainly not the case for some! I did a (very) little checking online. While there certainly is a continuum, and possibly women are more sensitive, it often comes down to training.

    The interesting thing to me is the fact that our brains can derive accurate signals from scents that our conscious selves don’t recognize well. Human pheromones are a great example of this, and I am sure that some plant fragrances also cause us often unintended reactions as well, apart from those that are connected to individual memories.

    I was also fascinated to find an exchange about big swings in their sensitivity to various odours in an online support group for Lyme disease sufferers.

  7. Samantha

    This planted itself in my garden this year. So delighted to have it, after relying on nursery strains for the last decade. I notice it’s beginning to grow wild on Long Island now.

  8. Anna

    Stupid question perhaps (and definitely a little late to the discussion): Why is it called “black” mullein? I don’t see any black parts on the plant or flowers.

  9. Jessica

    Just catching up on emails.

    I looooove the mulleins. If it’s starting to grow wild on Long Island, please tell it to explore coming to Brooklyn! I’d certainly welcome it in my garden.

    Yes..why is it called “black” mullein?

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